In my 20’s I wasn’t very good at my job. I wasn’t miserable and it wasn’t miserable, but it definitely wasn’t inspiring, and I did what I had to do to get through the day.
Around the same time I had a break-up and parted ways with my roommates, which made every part of life feel up for grabs. So I thought, what the hell, why not change my career, too?
What I knew is that I wanted to be a therapist, but what I didn’t know was how to make it happen. It was a drastic departure from what I was currently doing, but the possibility enlivened me.
Not everyone felt so comfortable, notably my boss who thought I was crazy. He told me the smart thing would be to get my MBA so I could get any job I wanted, and that he would pay for it.
No loans, no debt, just a free business degree. I somewhat humorously explained to him that not only did I have no desire to work in business, I did not want to take a single class related to business.
He responded by saying business was a responsible path for any future and that it was sensible for later adulthood, which made me cringe. Obviously part of me believed this might be true.
Yet I still researched what it meant to be a psychologist, a counselor, a social worker – all the differing paths to becoming a therapist. I investigated schools and job opportunities. I filled out endless applications and applied for loans.
And the day came when I received a letter of acceptance. I will never forget where I was standing and how time stopped.
I knew I would have to pay for it. Literally pay for it out of my own pocket, but also pay for it because I had to constantly manage other people’s judgments and advice. I was told I would be poor, that I would burn out, that I would be miserable. Inexplicably people believed I had somehow already failed.
Yet I had never been happier.
These were some of the hardest-working days of my life. I had a full-time job, I was going to school at night, and I was completing an internship in between. I was exhausted and pretty broke, but I slept well and I smiled a lot.
This was a turning point in my life because it’s the way I made all of my choices going forward, and most of my choices have not been mainstream or well understood by others.
Now I can see how all of these choices fit together, how they are pieces of a big puzzle that I couldn’t initially conceptualize. Not just successes, but failures that offered essential insight for the next interesting thing.
There will always be people who tell you how to live. They will give you their roadmap, they will insist that their way is right. As Anna Quindlen once wrote, “They will urge you to take jobs that they themselves loathe and to follow safe paths they themselves find tedious.”
I believe the advice from my boss and others was prompted by caring and a desire to help. It was a truth from their personal experience, but it didn’t fit my story.
When things don’t fit we need to trust that there is not one way. We aren’t all supposed to have an MBA or anything else for that matter. What is true for you can only be felt by you. What you decide to do with it can only be your choice.
You will find that many adults view the world externally – they bet on what they have, what they can buy, and what looks right to others.
I hope you bet on yourself and move toward what you love internally. I hope you trust yourself even though well-meaning others may disagree.
I hope you move toward your joy even if it requires significant work and sacrifice, knowing that even in the face of difficulty, you will sleep well and smile.